BOSS Spotlight: Caleb Whelden of Five O’Clock Shadow

In our continuing excitement for the upcoming Boston Sings festival, we’ve been interviewing a member of each professional group that will be performing in Boston this weekend. First, we talked to Tine Fris of Postyr Project. You can find that interview here.  Next, we spoke with Austin Willacy of The House Jacks.  The last interview before BOSS is with Caleb Whelden of Five O’Clock Shadow. Read, enjoy, and hopefully we’ll see many of you in Boston this weekend!

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Caleb Whelden sings with a lot of a cappella groups. After graduating from Ithaca College, where he performed with the renowned male group Ithacappella, he joined Five O’Clock Shadow in Boston and later played a role in founding Slapdash Graduate and Blueprint.

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He is also a member of Overboard, who recently completed an international tour across the United States and the UK (and will be performing Sunday afternoon after BOSS officially ends at 3:00 in Somerville, MA). He will be teaching a workshop at BOSS on “Building Group Sound” and of course performing with Five O’Clock Shadow on Saturday night. You can learn more about the group at www.focs.com.

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First, the news. Rumor has it Five O’Clock Shadow [“FOCS”] has completed a new EP which might just be released very soon. Anything you can tell me about that?

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The rumors are true. We just received 1000 copies of our new EP, “Six.” It’s been 13 years since FOCS has released a new recording and we are very excited about this one. We produced and recorded the album ourselves. This EP is the first step towards recording a full-length album.

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The biggest albums from FOCS (“So There,” “Wonders of the World”) generally featured original songs. Will the new EP follow this tradition, or feature more cover tunes?

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The EP is comprised of five songs; four originals and one cover. Some songs will be familiar to fans who have come to see us recently, but there’s one original song on the EP that has never been heard before. We wrote it specifically for the EP.

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Now, the history. FOCS has been around for a long time. In fact, the group celebrated its 20th anniversary with a concert back in 2011. Did any former members show up or participate in any way?

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We had all but a handful of the former members come back for the show. We had all of them perform, beginning with the first iteration of Five O’Clock Shadow. In fact, I think the anniversary show was the first time the original five members had sung together since 1991. It was pretty amazing to see and hear. We had members leave the stage in the order they left the group and the “new” members went up to perform…all the way up until the current membership. This is the third time the group has done a reunion show of that type and we’re all looking forward to the next one (25th anniversary show, anyone?)

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Late last year, one of the longest tenured (original?) members, “Stack” (David Stackhouse) left the group. How difficult a transition was it for you guys to lose someone whow as so clearly a part of the group’s fabric?

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Actually, Stack was not an original member. Stack didn’t join the group until 1998, when the group was already 6 years old. When Stack announced to us that he was leaving, it was extremely difficult for all of us. That iteration of the band had been performing together for just about 10 years, which is the longest any iteration of the group had been together. Additionally, Stack had been the primary songwriter and arranger for the group during that time, as well as the business manager. To say he was the “driving force” of the group would be an understatement. Most importantly, Stack is like a brother to us and to not have him as part of the group was a difficult thing to swallow.

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Having said that, when Stack announced his departure, none of us wanted the group to end. We found two very talented musicians to replace him (Stack did bass and percussion at the same time…difficult to find someone who can do both) and picked up the pieces. We are all very excited about the current membership and have had a blast performing together.

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For awhile, back in the late ’90’s and early 2000’s, FOCS was at the forefront of a cappella with recording techniques and performing techniques. The group then seemed to disappear a bit, at least from the larger a cappella community (outside of the Boston area). What happened? Is the group, with the performance at BOSS and the new EP, gearing up to reclaim its reputation in the national (or international) a cappella community?

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To be honest, Five O’Clock Shadow disbanded in December of 2003. We were a full time act at the time and I think the road just got to be too much for us, especially two of the guys who were preparing to start families with their wives. We had our “FOCS Farewell tour” in the Fall/Winter of ’03 and our “last performance” was on December 21, 2003. Less than a year after the show, we were getting tons of calls to do shows. We decided to get together over Thai food and discuss the possibility of getting back together as a part-time band. We all missed it and decided that if the gigs were there, we’d keep going. We never announced anything to either our fans or the a cappella community and to some extent, were forgotten.

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We all see BOSS as an opportunity to re-introduce Five O’Clock Shadow to the a cappella community. Some of our own fans will be there, but for the most part, much of the younger crowd has no idea who we are. I’m not sure about “reclaiming our reputation,” but with two new members and a brand new EP, we’re excited to get the group’s name out there once again.

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Speaking of Boston, there are obviously quite a few a cappella groups out there, a few of which include some guy named Caleb Whelden. Do all of these groups (your various groups, Ball in the House, Redline, etc.) support each other or is it very competitive (or both)?

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There was a time when there was competition among the local a cappella groups. That was well before I joined the band, and I’ve only heard stories about it. To be honest, there seems to be nothing but respect for other groups these days. Contemporary a cappella music has grown so much over the years. Back when the group first started, it was very difficult to catch people’s interest in what we do. At this point, with shows such as “The Sing Off” and movies like “Pitch Perfect,” it’s obvious that a cappella is making a giant splash. No one appreciates that more than groups such as ours, or Ball in the House, who have been struggling for years to make a living doing this. It’s still not easy to make this kind of a living, but with a larger audience base, there is much less competition.

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Let’s follow up with some smack talk: what do you think Five O’Clock Shadow does that no (or few) other groups out there can do?

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Five O’Clock Shadow has always been able to rock, and have a lot of fun doing it. I don’t know a log of groups out there (except of course, Fork) who can sell rock tunes convincingly. We use guitar effects pedals to bolster our sound and we bring a ton of energy and experience to the stage. More importantly, we don’t take ourselves too seriously, which helps the audience relax and really enjoy the show.

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Five O’Clock Shadow has a history of performing clinics or workshops, other various types of educational outreach. You were a music education major in college. What do you think a cappella music, or Five O’Clock Shadow, can do for young musicians?

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What I like about our art form is that it is extremely accessible to everyone. For years, we’ve been touring the country, teaching about what we do to all ages (elementary-college). We teach the same techniques any choir teacher teaches, and do it in a way that is a ton of fun. We help reinforce what teachers are already saying, and at the same time, we are proof that music can continue after school is finished. Inspiring young artists is truly one of the most rewarding things we do.

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You guys have performed on television, at sporting events, at corporate events, etc. What’s next for Five O’Clock Shadow after BOSS?

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We are finally getting settled into this new membership and we haven’t had a ton of time in the past few months to develop repertoire that is “ours.” I think we’re going to continue developing our set with both new originals and covers and perhaps start talking about recording a full length album. We are also talking about putting together a fall tour for this new EP.

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Caleb, thank you for taking the time to provide a little more insight into the history of the group and the changes taking place in recent months. We’re all looking forward to getting our hands on the new EP (streaming now at focs.com) and seeing you guys on Saturday night. Best of luck at the festival and in all of the new exciting things to come for Five O’Clock Shadow!

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BOSS Spotlight: Austin Willacy of The House Jacks

In our continuing excitement for the upcoming Boston Sings festival, we’ve been interviewing a member of each professional group that will be performing in Boston next week. First, we talked to Tine Fris of Postyr Project. You can find that interview here.  Now, to stoke your excitement for the festival, here’s our interview with Austin Willacy of The House Jacks.

Austin Willacy is a longstanding member of The House Jacks.  He has written (or co-written) more than three dozen of the group’s songs. He is also an acclaimed singer/songwriter apart from the group, having released three solo albums and performed with Bonnie Raitt, Rachael Yamagata, Jem, and Amos Lee, among others.

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His compositions have been featured on television (“The Sing-Off” and MTV’s “Road Rules”) and on the soundtrack for three documentaries, “Thrive,” “Word Wars,” and “A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar…”.  Austin has contributed dozens of sound-alike vocals to video games including Guitar Hero, Karaoke Revolution, and Just Dance Kids.  He is the director of ‘Til Dawn, Youth in Arts’ award-winning teen a cappella group and served on the board of Rainforest Action Network. You can learn a lot more about him at his website http://www.austinwillacy.com.

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INTERVIEW

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Austin, thanks for taking a few minutes to answer some questions an anticipation of the Boston Sings festival.

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My pleasure!

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You’ve been with The House Jacks for most of the group’s 21-year history. What is it about the group that allows it to sustain creativity and popularity in the a cappella community over such a long period of time?

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I think that the main reason The House Jacks have continued to thrive is that we evolve. If you identify the primary characteristics that distinguish one contemporary a cappella group from another, they break down into the following categories (in no particular order): Arranging, Songwriting, VP, Live Performance, Soloists, Engineering. We have, and have had, many incredible people in the group who have excelled in one, or more, of the aforementioned areas. We do our best to highlight the strengths of the individual members of the group in a way that showcases the strength of the group, as a whole. We embrace change and understand and know that through it, we find new strengths we are able to emphasize.

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What you do is pretty specialized. If you were looking for a new House Jack, what would you be looking for?

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We look for someone who’s exceptional in their own right. In addition to exceptional ability in any/all of the above categories (Arranging, Songwriting, VP, Live Performance, Soloist, Engineering), we look for a man who: is a self-starter; really understands how to be part of a team; is a grownup; has a flexible lifestyle; writes great music; is truthful and communicative; and is willing to make mistakes with a smile on his face.

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The House Jacks have been intimately involved with many of the recent a cappella events which crossed over into mainstream pop culture such as The Sing-Off, the Monday Night Football theme, and Pitch Perfect. Does the group have the desire or intention to produce an album which could hit the Billboard charts? What would it take to achieve this?

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Yes. We had the desire to produce an album that would hit the Billboard charts when we were signed to Warner Brothers/Tommy Boy from 1994-97 and we still have the desire. :-) However, we aren’t trying to write, arrange, and produce an album to chart on Billboard. We write, arrange, and produce our songs to the best of our ability. We are aware of, and influenced by, all sorts of music; the good and the bad, the famous and the infamous, but at the end of the day, there’s no formula that guarantees anything will chart on Billboard.

In order for us to hit the Billboard charts, I think we’d either need a viral video to blow up, a la “Gangnam Style” or “Thrift Shop” or receive a large-scale push from a corporate media entity.

On a related front, part of the challenge with a cappella charting is that though there is a new awareness of what a cappella is and isn’t, the general public does not expect a cappella to chart because the vast majority of it involves performing music that was popularized by other artists, and cover bands are not something that most people care about…until they’re planning a wedding. “Gangnam Style” and “Thrift Shop” were popularized by the artists who wrote them. So, I think another thing that would pave the way for more a cappella to chart on Billboard is a sea change wherein a cappella developed a reputation for leading, not following, for writing, not reworking.

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[Editor: Totally agree on this last point, and if you the reader didn’t already know this, The House Jacks have been writing tremendous original material for nearly their entire existence, and their original music has been at a consistently high level for years. Sadly, they are one of the only American vocal groups to write really good original music.]

You guys are known for your audience request improvisation section at your shows. What one song was either the worst disaster or the most impressive and surprising success for you?

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The first one. “I Got You (I Feel Good),” by James Brown, was the most surprising success for us because it was a total accident. We ad-libbed the whole song without any parts being doubled or dropped. When we finished, we looked at each other like “What the FU*K?! Did that just happen?!”

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Rumor has it you guys are working on a new album. When can we expect to hear it?

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We’re working on a new album which has a target release date of Fall, 2013.

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You are different from many professional a cappella performers in that you have also released 3 (soon to be 4!) solo albums of original music that include instruments. When you have ideas for songs, how do you decide whether something would be more appropriate for your solo career or for The House Jacks?

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Usually, when I write songs, I write without thinking about whether or not the song would be better for me as a solo artist or as a House Jack. A handful of songs have worked well in both iterations. As a singer/songwriter, I write what I write. But sometimes in recent years, if The House Jacks have a need for a certain type of song, I write a song with that in mind and work out a 5-part arrangement in tandem.

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When you perform with The House Jacks, you are extremely expressive both vocally and physically. Who are some of your performing influences? 

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Thanks! I cast a pretty wide net. I’m influenced by anyone I see who I think is good, from Macklemore at SXSW to U2 at a stadium show to a singer/songwriter at a cafe. Connecting with an audience and getting a message across is a gift. I’m influenced by anyone who does that well…I’m also influenced by anyone I see who’s not so good.  :-)  That said, I’m vocally influenced by Stevie Wonder, Sting, Marvin Gaye, Peter Gabriel, Aretha Franklin, Prince, Michael Jackson, Mark Kibble, and Robert Plant. As a performer, I’m influenced by Wayne Brady, Christopher Guest, Dave Chappelle, and many others.

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Music is clearly a huge part of your life. What are some of the most meaningful musical experiences of your career?

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I did a trio performance (upright bass, lead guitar, & me) at a launch party/fundraiser for a non-profit organization that was marrying social justice and music. Bonnie Raitt was on the bill too. After my set, she said “Man! You can really f*cking SING!” That floored me! I’ll never forget it.

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What musical projects to you and/or the group have coming up after BOSS?

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I have a solo show at Emmanuel College in Boston on Sunday, April 7. I have a show at The Freight & Salvage April 12 with The House Jacks. 5 days later, we leave for China. I’ll be mastering my 4th solo CD in April and releasing it sometime in Fall, 2013. We’ll be heading to Camp A Cappella in June and I’ll be flying from there to Alaska to teach at a Fine Arts camp for two weeks! The next few months are gonna be busy!

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Austin, thank you so much for your time. We are all looking forward to seeing The House Jacks both onstage and in the workshops at BOSS, and to hearing both new recordings (your solo album and a new House Jacks album) this Fall.

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BOSS Spotlight: Tine Fris of Postyr Project

Next week is the Boston Sings (BOSS) festival, which will feature performances from 3 of the best professional a cappella groups in the world (Postyr Project, The House Jacks, and Five O’Clock Shadow). In an effort to provide a little insight and context leading up to that festival, I decided to ask one member of each group a few questions. First in the series will be our international guests, Postyr Project. Tine Fris was kind enough to answer a few questions for Acatribe.

Tine Fris is a soprano and arranger/songwriter for Postyr Project, a unique vocal group from Denmark with 5 singers and a tendency to fuse electronic or acoustic instruments with their voices. She holds a degree from the Royal Academy of Music in Denmark and is a music teacher who has written about vocal technique and songwriting for the Vocal Blog.

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Postyr Project will be performing at the famous Bitter End in New York City on April 4 and then headlining the Professional Showcase concert at the Boston Sings festival on Saturday, April 6.

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INTERVIEW

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Postyr Project grew out of two terrific Danish ensembles, Vocal Line and Vox 11. What kinds of different things were you all looking to do with Postyr Project?

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We wanted to explore the border between the natural softness of the human voices and the more rough and edgy sounds of electronic music. We also wanted to sing our own songs and to try to write new songs and arrange them in a way so they were bringing out the best in the voices – I think it is called voice idiomatic…? We want to explore. We want to tell stories. We want to feel. We want to change the perspective. We want to show all the colors, the pretty ones AND the not so pretty ones.

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Postyr Project is certainly something original in the vocal community. Do you see the group continuing to push forward in new, unexplored directions musically?

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We are still very much in the process of developing the group’s sound. We do that in the rehearsal room, but also very much in the studio. I think the focus more and more will be on the details and how we can refine the sound. Also, we can really feel that the new songs we write are written not only for voices and loops, but for voices, loops and “sound”/production.  It is a bit difficult to explain, but I feel that I get a better and better idea about what the possibilities are, and this inspires us all to compose in different ways.

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Your debut album features a number of songs which make use of electronic instruments, such as drums, and acoustic instruments, such as cello. Do you think this makes Postyr Project any less pure as an “a cappella” or “vocal” group?

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I don’t really see us as an a cappella group. I mean, we have a few songs we sing strictly a cappella, but the whole foundation of the group is to fuse the voices with something else, so I would say that we are some kind of vocal group that produces vocal-based pop music. Or something like that. It is always difficult to label yourself, don’t you think? Personally, I love to sing a cappella, however, most of the music I compose needs a touch of something else to create the sound I have in my head. For some reason, I need a bit of disturbance to the soundscape…

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In January, 2012, the group pulled off two remarkable live, web-streamed concerts which drew in viewers from all over the world. How difficult was it to set that up and to actually perform two separate concerts with many of the same songs in the same evening? What kind of response did you get?

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Was it easy? NO! Was it fun? YES!!! Phew! That was a big project, and also quite expensive to be honest. But it was so much fun and something that we will never ever forget. As I said earlier, we love to explore and to find new ways of doing things, and with this interactive concert concept we saw an opportunity to reach out to our international followers and to bring some of the homey, casual feeling we have in our rehearsal room on stage and in that way gave the audience a chance to get to know us a bit better. To get closer. We had a lot of good feedback and viewers from more than 40 countries all over the planet. I sometimes meet people in concert that come up to me and tell me that they saw us online. That’s the best!

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Is this the group’s first visit to the United States? Is it your personal first visit here? If so, do you have anything you hope or plan to see while you are here?

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It is Postyr Project’s first visit to the United States. I have been here three times before, and I love it! Line and I decided to fly in to New York a few days early, so in a few minutes I am off to SOHO to do some serious (shoe) shopping. Later this week, I want to visit MoMA and Williamsburg and finish “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac while having a coffee at “Good Stuff Diner” or “Sunburst.”

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What are some other vocal/a cappella groups in Europe or America that inspire or intrigue you?

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I am very inspired by Latvian “Cosmos.” They don’t really exist anymore, but their album “Turbulence” is really something to check out! I am also very inspired by Jens Johansen, the conductor of the Danish XL vocal group Vocal Line, who basically taught me everything I know about vocal music. What else…I love to listen to Bjork’s record “Medulla.”  Besides that I am crazy about other vocal-based music like Oh Land, Susanne Sundfoer, Fallulah and singer songwriters like Tina Dico, Neil Young, and Joni Mitchell. Hmmm…. and when I want to disappear for an hour I listen to Keith Jarret’s Cologne Concert. This is pure beauty and creativity and being in the moment for me.

[Editor: I couldn’t resist looking up Cosmos, and this video is unique and utterly riveting…http://youtu.be/JbNI8huqG_M ]

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Your new album has received some positive reviews in Germany. Any idea when it will be released in the United States?

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We haven’t decided it yet, but we will let you know! :-)  And we brought a few of them here, so…

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What kinds of things does Postyr Project have to look forward to in the rest of 2013?

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We are touring throughout 2013. 70ish concerts in 12 countries in 4 continents. Not boring. Next stop after Boston and New York is The Netherlands, then Aarhus Vocal Festival in Denmark (www.aavf.dk), then Germany, Finland, Italy, Namibia, Germany, Taiwan, Latvia, Italy…and so on. We are also doing some collaboration projects with other groups, more about that later. While touring we are trying to write new songs and also we are busy putting more “wood on the fire” in Germany, where things are starting to roll with “My Future Self” on the radio and German MTV and much more. We are keeping our fingers crossed and we look forward to seeing the outcome.

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Tine, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. We are all looking forward to seeing you in Boston (and hopefully New York), and we wish you the best of luck with all of these amazing things coming for Postyr Project!
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Here is the latest video from Postyr Project-“My Future Self”- enjoy!
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Vocaldoings: March, 2013

It’s been a busy few months since we talked about all of the exciting things coming in 2013.  It’s time for a few updates and some news we couldn’t have predicted back in January.

NEWS

On February 1, Inside A Cappella began offering weekly, 5-6 minute shows on its YouTube channel. The show, produced by Deke Sharon and Dave Longo, is hosted by Rachel Chaloub and offers some quick news, editorial/analysis, a few video clips, and more. In the 5th episode, released on March 12, the show broke the news that The Sing Off will be returning for a 4th season. When I say it “broke the news,” I mean it really broke the news. This renewal had not been reported yet on any other entertainment website, though some followed a week later.  You can find out more about the audition dates for the abbreviated Season 4 of the show here. Also, the producers of the upcoming Boston Sings festival announced that groups can mock audition for Deke Sharon and Sing Off executive producer Sam Weisman at this year’s festival.

In other mainstream entertainment news, DreamWorks has apparently picked up the rights for a movie about Straight No Chaser. You can read more about this from the Hollywood Reporter (!) here.

Sled Dog Studios and The Vocal Company announced in early January that they will be joining forces to create a new business offering all of their separate services and more. You can find out more about the merger and the new services in my recent interview with Chief Executive Officer of the new entity, Dave Longo, which is available here.

Speaking of a cappella production companies, Clear Harmonies Productions revamped their website, showed off a new logo, and released info about a new concert series they are producing in Arlington, VA, which will feature remaining performances by groups such as Breath of Soul, Musae, Blue Jupiter, The Executive Board, and Six Appeal.

Craig Martek, founder of The Pow Arrangers, is working on two great new websites, one tracking a cappella groups by location (here), the other tracking upcoming a cappella events (here). The latter was also related to a lengthy discussion on CASA’s Facebook page about how much we would all enjoy a website tracking concerts of part-time and full-time a cappella groups here in the U.S. by location. The discussion has turned to maintenance, and the group is currently seeking volunteers (I already signed up) to track 10 groups per year and update the administrator each month with all upcoming gigs for those groups. If you’re interested, send an email to: brian@casa.org.

The Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award nominees have been announced. You can find the list here, and don’t forget the winners will be announced at BOSS in 2 weeks, so get your tickets here (also, if you go to the festival, you’ll get to see The House Jacks, Postyr Project, Five O’Clock Shadow, and a number of collegiate groups perform, get a chance to mock audition for producers of The Sing Off, and get to see a whole lot of terrific workshops). Also, if you want some insight and analysis regarding the nominees, check out Rob Dietz’s blog for his “Call the CARAs” take on some of the major categories.

ICCA results are coming in, with all of the quarterfinals completed and three semifinals completed as well. Congratulations to all of the groups, and especially to the NU Nor’easters, Michigan G-Men, and FSU Reverb for punching their tickets to the Finals in NYC on April 20 at 8 pm.

Liquid 5th Productions has, as usual, been busy. First, engineers Carl Taylor and Chris Juengel have been alternating running live sound for some group called “Pentatonix”? If you missed it, my review of just how amazing the new PTX tour sounds/looks can be found here.  Liquid 5th has also joined forces with the UK University A Cappella Blog as they increase their reach across the pond (as they say). Here’s more info.

RARB (Recorded A Cappella Review Board) has been reviewing a cappella albums for twenty years. As tends to happen over time, much has changed in what is required and expected of the organization, and RARB has decided that it would be in its best interests to (finally) register as a non-profit organization. The organization is looking for opinions on the best way to raise money to achieve this goal, and we would very much appreciate it if you could take the time to complete our survey, which you can access here.

LIVE MUSIC

As I mentioned previously, Pentatonix has been on tour for much of the past 2 months. If you are able to catch them on any of the remaining dates, I highly recommend you do so.

The Exchange have been quite busy touring Australia and Hong Kong for much of the past 2 months. They have reportedly been working on some new recorded tracks with Tat Tong while on the road, so here’s hoping there’s a new EP coming later this year.

Overboard has been busy touring as well, with their recent “#monkeyponytour” taking them all over the map, including stops in Texas and the United Kingdom. You can find out more about upcoming gigs here.

Sing Strong Chicago just wrapped up this past weekend, with performances from Nota, the Swingle Singers, Traces, Blue Jupiter, Ball in the House, and others. Stay tuned for some videos on this week’s AcaVids coming tomorrow.

RECORDINGS

Since we last updated you all, the Exchange released their full-length debut album, “Get Ready.” You can check it out here (and I highly recommend you do).

Sweet Honey in the Rock have been around for nearly forty years with their very unique blend of folk, blues, jazz, gospel, and ethnic music.  They recently released a new album, a live 2-CD set from Lincoln Center, which is available now on CD and on Amazon, iTunes, etc. The press release for the album is available here.

Five O’Clock Shadow are getting ready to release their first recorded music in almost 13 years! Rumor has it the 5-song EP will be released before or during the upcoming BOSS festival, so stay tuned to the group on Twitter or Facebook for the breaking news.

MO5AIC are getting ready to release their new EP, RE5ET. You can preview it on their website right here.

Rockapella’s “Motown and More” album is now available on iTunes and Amazon.

VIDEOS 

Pentatonix has a powerful new collaboration with Lindsey Stirling which is now up on YouTube here.

Straight No Chaser released a new video collaboration with Sara Bareilles which stirred up some controversy among the die-hard “Chasers.” That video is available here.

Jewish a cappella groups Six13 and the Maccabeats each produced a new, hilarious, and terrific-sounding video for the upcoming Passover holiday. Here is Six13 with Pesach Shop and The Maccabeats with Les Miserables- Passover.

FUNDRAISING

Finally, we all know there is always some good old a cappella fundraising going on at Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Here are a few noteworthy campaigns.

The lovely and talented Boxettes have an ongoing campaign on Pledgemusic for their new EP, “No Strings.” Check it out right here.

North Carolina State University’s Wolfgang has a campaign to fund their new album right here.

The Vocaholics from NYU have an Indiegogo campaign to complete their new album here. (another group from NYU, my own Mass Transit, completed a successful campaign on that same site in just 9 days- go MT!)

New Hampshire’s Not Too Sharp also has a current Indiegogo campaign for their new album, to be recorded with Sled Dog Studios, right here.

The Eldred Key Elements, a high school group run by Justin Glodich, reached their goal but are still hoping for a little extra money to help raise the level of their upcoming album.

Sadly, both Committed and Traces of Blue (aka Afro Blue) recently failed in their efforts to fund new albums, though Traces of Blue is able to use the funds actually raised towards that effort. Here’s to hoping Committed gives it another shot with more success in the near future.

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That’s all the vocaldoings I have time to catalog for now. If you know of some noteworthy a cappella news, don’t hesitate to share it with others by commenting below or email me at dave@acatribe.com

2013- Get Excited

After last week’s recap of all things a cappella in 2012, I started getting excited about things to come in the a cappella world for 2013. I’ve done a little research, some secret conversations, and yes, a little speculating, to put together your very early guide to 2013.

To begin with, let’s talk about albums. For many/most of us, the vast majority of our a cappella consumerism occurs through purchasing and listening to recorded music, with occasional attendance at a live concert or festival (see below).  2013 is going to be chock full of new music for us to get our grubby little hands on.  Check out some of the artists who plan to release EPs or albums this year:

Straight No Chaser– If you didn’t know this already, SNC fans (“Chasers”) are rabid, excitable, and supportive (see the comments for my 2012 recap post). They are also incredibly helpful and generous of spirit. They have informed me that SNC has a new album, called “Under the Influence,” which is due to be released on May 7. Oh, and the group worked with Mervyn Warren and Mark Kibble (Take 6) on it. No big deal. #WHATISHAPPENING

Street Corner Symphony– The runners-up from Season 2 of The Sing Off are getting ready to release their second album, one which features all (or mostly) original songs written by group members, and which featured heavy involvement from Deke Sharon and Bill Hare. This was the first video released from this album. Count me in. Announcement on a release date coming soon.

The House Jacks– Since they released “Level” in 2010, the group has replaced everyone other than Deke Sharon and Austin Willacy. New album with the new lineup coming this year. I have been told there will be an EP released in China this spring (hopefully) followed by a full album for release everywhere else.

Sonos– The a cappella world has been anxiously awaiting a new Sonos album for more than 2 years. That wait is about to end. The new album, currently untitled (or at least title unknown) is going to feature all original music from the group, possibly as many as 15 songs. They will preview/premier tracks from this album at the Essential Listening workshop at Los Angeles A Cappella Festival in a few weeks, so if you are in the same time zone (give or take a time zone), you know where to be on Saturday, Feb. 2.

Transit– Back in 2007, Transit released a 7-song album which won a few awards (Best Pop/Rock Album CARA, for example) and which is still one of the best contemporary albums released in the past 10 years. Well, they’ve been working long and hard on a new album, and it’s coming in 2013. The album is in post-production now, and we’ll likely be hearing a lot more about it soon. The group has some other exciting plans for 2013 as well.

Blue Jupiter– Last year, Blue Jupiter released this promo video. This year, they’re a bit more ambitious. In fact, they will be releasing “something” which could range anywhere from a single album, double album, two separate albums, or even an all-digital collection of 20-30 songs. Wow.

The Exchange– Remember this? Yeah, these guys have been hard at work on their debut album, which is scheduled as of now to be released at The London A Cappella Festival on January 24-26. For now, you can listen to a few of the tracks here.

Rockapella– One of the longest-standing contemporary a cappella groups, Rockapella changed it up recently with their “Motown and More” show. The new album is coming in early 2013- will it follow the format of the new show? We’ll find out soon enough.

MICappella– The runners up to The Sing Off China are in the studio working on a new full-length album to follow their EP released in 2011. They have been working with Tom Anderson on arrangements, and Bill Hare, Tat Tong, Dave Sperandio, Freddie Feldman as well as Plaid Productions. It is tentatively scheduled to be released in March.

The Swingle Singers– Rumor has it the Swingles are getting close to releasing a brand new album. Perhaps they worked with Bill Hare last summer?

The Boxettes– Though it is still a work in progress, The Boxettes have been in the studio to work on a new EP. They’re raising money here (go ahead, kick in a few bucks…you know you want to) and we can all hope they get a release out in 2013.

The Edge Effect– These guys “neither refuse, nor require instruments” according to the video on their successfully-funded Kickstarter video.  Basically, they are a vocal band but are including some instruments on their new album, which should be released this year. The project will include a contribution from Marc Broussard. You know, like you do when you release a new album…

Voices Only Forte II– Last year, Voices Only released the first compilation of all non-scholastic, global a cappella music that I’ve seen, and it was good. I served as a nominator for this sequel, which is due to be announced and released very soon, and I can tell you- there’s some music on here that will blow your mind, and a lot of it comes from groups/performers you’ve probably never heard of.

I’m sure there are more releases planned, but this was the best I could come up with after a few days of research and communications. If you know of another exciting album coming out, drop it in the comments section or send me an email at dave@acatribe.com.

Festivals: There are a few new festivals and changes to existing festivals worth mentioning-

Texas A Cappella Celebration– In case you hadn’t heard, CASA is expanding its festival range to the Lone Star State. Not much info on this yet other than that it’s happening on March 9, 2013, in San Antonio.

SingStrong– This annual festival, the proceeds of which largely benefit Alzheimer’s research and local choral programs, has reproduced! In 2013, there will be 2 festivals, including the regular one in Reston, VA (near D.C.) on March 1-3 and the new one in Chicago, IL on March 22-24. No other details yet.

Camp A Cappella– What do you think about spending a week with The House Jacks, learning about a cappella music, singing, performing, recording, all on a college campus in OH? Hold on, it’s not for everybody. This new camp, put together by Deke Sharon and Brody McDonald is only for teens this year, but if it goes well, who knows what the future could hold.

Festival of Voices-this longstanding choral festival in Tasmania (!) is introducing a new contemporary a cappella track headed by Mr. Deke Sharon. The festival will be July 7-14.

Mile High Vocal Jam– This Rocky mountain festival returns after a 2012 hiatus on Feb. 15-16 with Urban Method and Musae performing, and members of Take 6 judging and running clinics.

* I have been involved in the very early stages of planning with Marc Silverberg for a possible a cappella festival devoted to vocal music in schools in Long Island, New York. We are looking for help with planning and logistics, as well as talent and volunteers, so please email us at liacappellafestival@gmail.com.

And for updated info on all the regular festivals, check back at the global Festival List very soon.

Other:

***Mouth Off– Ok, this is arguably BREAKING NEWS, so I could probably have placed it a lot higher in the post. I have confirmed with Christopher Diaz that Mouth Off will be returning in 2013! We can all look for some public announcements in the next month or so, and then a gradual build-up towards a full return sometime this spring. There may be some changes, and we’ll all have to wait and see what those are, but still- Mouth Off will be back!

Vocal Blog– Florian Städtler has started a very interesting new series of “Big Questions” about a cappella music. The first two posts are here and here.  He hopes/plans to get a lot of the questions answered by spring 2013. He also hopes/plans to make Acappellazone the primary resource for all things a cappella in the EU.

RARB– I can’t tell you much, but I think Mr. Dietz teased some suggestions about changes coming to  the Recorded A Cappella Review Board here.

Ben Spalding is working on a new book about Varsity Vocals which will be released late in the year. There will be chapters about all aspects of the competition process, from application videos to what to wear in performance and how to use sound reinforcement equipment, and a few chapters will be written by some very well known people in the a cappella community.

The Tufts Beelzebubs are celebrating 50 years of existence with a concert February 7 featuring alums including Guster, Peter Gallagher, and The House Jacks.

This is not strictly a cappella, but Claude McKnight (again from Take 6) has a new Kickstarter campaign to create a DVD or show dealing with how groups handle working together over time, and the pilot episode will feature Take 6 as the subjects.

Rumors:

Did you hear that they are making another season of The Sing Off in the U.S.? Another one somewhere outside the U.S.? Did you hear that they’re working on Pitch Perfect 2? Yeah, I heard all of these rumors as well. None is confirmed, and that’s coming from someone who would be connected to all such projects (if you can’t guess who, your contemporary a cappella card is hereby revoked).

Pentatonix is working on a new EP/album! Or not. This has been suggested all over social media, but is not confirmed by anyone. Considering they put out TWO last year, it would not be surprising. Also, they seem to be constantly working on touring, YouTube vids, etc., so they clearly have a lot of energy and desire to continually make music. We can certainly keep our fingers crossed.

So…looks to me like 2013 is gonna be another leap forward for a cappella. What else is coming our way? If you have some news, drop it in the comments or send me an email. I’ll be doing an update next week on some changes coming to the blog in 2013, but for now- get back to work so you can save some money for these new albums!

—-UPDATES (1/13/13)

Traces are close to releasing their debut album, which includes collaborations with Tom Anderson, Marty Gasper, Alex Green, and James Cannon.

Postyr Project will be releasing a new single next week, and a “reloaded album with 5 new songs” hopefully in March.

Texas A Cappella Celebration has launched a new website and announced headliners Delilah and Overboard.

Rockapella’s new album will feature music from their Motown and More show, as well as related music such as the Jackson 5 and others.